January 23rd, 2017 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

A long time ago during a January Term at Macalester College when we were studying War Theory (it was a great class, but hard to only focus on War for a whole month) a friend of mine, Tim, told me a very long joke about the fact there was nothing to worry about and that only two things can happen. It was a funny, but very true joke and it helped us to refocus on the good after a depressing month.


Focusing on the Good was the exact opposite of what I learned about last week at a talk by Matthias Horx on the Creative Age: he reminded us that we must not fall into the trap of Awfulism. I had not heard the word before, but the concept is familiar to me from my coaching training:


Awfulizing is a term coined by psychologist Albert Ellis. It refers to an irrational and dramatic thought pattern, characterized by the tendency to overestimate the potential seriousness or negative consequences of events, situations, or perceived threats.


Where I have been trained it this kind of thinking called a cognitive error:


“Awfulizing – Looking at things in a negative way. Some types of this error are:


  • Thinking that you can’t tolerate an unpleasant emotion or that you will go crazy or die if you experience one;
  • Thinking that a problem is more severe than it is; exaggerating how bad something is;
  • Thinking that only bad things will certainly happen;


Overlooking or ignoring the positive, the advantages, benefits, or good points when you evaluate something (i.e. considering only the negatives, disadvantages, costs , detriments, or bad points.”


WE MUST Avoid Awfulizing


To avoid this cognitive error you can do many things to help


– one of the best is to scale a situation:


On a scale of one to ten where one is not much at all and ten is it is going to kill you someone else, how bad is this situation or issue?


OR you could call my friend Tim and ask to hear the joke: “There is nothing to worry about; only two thing s can happen…”


You could also start a board on Pintrest to alleviate your awfulizing thoughts. Mine is called Fun and Funny.



Another way to deal with this thinking is to change the way you look at life by writing down the positives.


Another talk I heard from my friend Renate was on how we should take a jar and write our reasons to be thankful down on pieces of paper and put them in that jar.

Whenever you focus on the good in your life, you raise the level of your gratitude and that, in turn, does you good. You can Google it for yourself, but I have chosen an article from Newsweek to summarize this concept:


  • Gratitude increases your hope


  • You are healthier


  • You sleep better


  • You have better self-esteem


  • You help others more


  • You have more empathy


  • You are more resilient (to the bad)


TO DO: So, in summary, why don’t you get out some paper, a pen and a jar and at least once a week write down five things for which you are grateful? Or better yet at least one, and up to three things a day… You may have to find yourself a gallon-sized pickle jar soon!


Finally, once a month, take an hour and go through the jar. If you are a journaler (and maybe even if you aren’t), write down what you have seen or learned from your time of re-reading your gratefulness papers.


If you want, you can tell me how it goes.


Have a great week,


Patricia Jehle


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